Maybe it’s already been done but, if not, someone could do a good ‘how Hitler conquered Europe’ skit based on the idea that at every stage he is able to advance, invisible, like a ghost, because someone points out that to take note of his presence would be a Godwin’s Law violation. The Wehrmacht rolls into Poland. The border guards frantically phone for assistance, only to be tut-tutted. ‘Ah-ah-ahh! You said ‘Hitler’!’ Stalin raves at his underlings when news of Hitler’s betrayal of their pact reaches him. ‘Impossible! That would be a Godwin’s Law violation!’
You may say I just compared Bush to Hitler and this is a strictly inaccurate analogy in a large number of respects. (I guess I can take cold comfort in that.) But I also, in effect, just compared David Broder to Stalin. Which is totally absurd. So let’s call it a wash and proceed straight to the improving moral. It is absurd to uphold moderation as a normative ideal in politics by simply refusing to acknowledge the possibility that it might have failed, in point of fact. (See Broder’s most recent pair of columns, if you haven’t already. And this Jennifer Senior book review, and this Digby review of the review.)
I used to be a practitioner of the Higher Broderism myself, in some ways. I’m trying to do better. What stings me is the conclusion of the Senior review. Two books on what’s gone on with Bush and what’s the moral of the story: “how important it is for writers to have a slight sense of humor about themselves.” Yes. A whole quadrant of possible conclusions is excluded – you just can’t get there from here – because it would be hard to get there while giving the audience a jolly ‘he said-she said’ ride, which lets them back off at the same place where they bought their ticket. And this is effectively put forth as a sufficient reason for doubting the conclusions are true.
UPDATE: It occurs to me the objection will be made that the likes of Broder are willing to consider the possibility that both sides have abandoned the middle in equal and opposite fashion. But this is really more a flirtation with political mysticism – a doctrine of the occultation of the middle, if you will – than a serious empirical proposal. (The Hidden Moderate speaks through its earthly representative: folks like Broder.) Because this view refuses to consider alternatives to itself, e.g. that moderation has failed in some other way. Either way, what we get is merely a means of preserving the accustomed rhetorical equilibrium of Broder, Senior. et al.
UPDATE the 2nd: Yes, I’m using ‘violation of Godwin’s Law’ to mean, more or less, ‘confirming instance of Godwin’s Law’. Well, I think I’m just following common usage in doing so. It’s some sort of non-exception that disproves the rule thing.